Part of the allure of HBO 24/7 is just how current and relevant it becomes in the midst of a hockey season. With the injuries that have plagued both the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers this season, that's never been as true as it was on Wednesday night, when Episode 2 of the four-part series aired.
The timing wasn't exactly perfect, as one of the many arcs of the episode featured the injury status of Flyers star Claude Giroux. Hours before the show was set to air at 10 p.m ET, the Flyers announced Giroux would return to the lineup. By the time HBO was set to run Episode 2, Giroux had scored four points in a Philadelphia victory against Dallas.
But they did the best they could, clearly editing the show down to the wire. They closed Episode 2 with dramatic images of Giroux grabbing his stick at Wednesday morning's practice, stepping onto the ice and ripping shots towards an empty net. Preparation for that night's game, foreshadowing for next week's episode.
Giroux's injury overshadowed the injury news surrounding Philadelphia captain Chris Pronger, however. HBO didn't focus much on the season-ending concussion to Pronger, just mentioning it briefly after a Flyers win in Montreal. Perhaps it's something they dig into deeper in one of the final two episodes, but it was one of the lingering disappointments in Episode 2.
That is, one of the very few disappointments. The relevance of the show in the news cycle shined through on the Rangers side of things as well, with inside looks at Steve Eminger's shoulder injury and Marc Staal's continued recovery from a concussion of his own.
Most of the great moments of Episode 2 came off the ice, however, as you'll see by the list we've compiled below. Yes, as we expect will be typical for the remainder of the show, all the best moments are the direct result of Ilya Bryzgalov.
JOHN TORTORELLA'S INCREDIBLE RANT
The Rangers lost to the St. Louis Blues last week, but at the end of the first period, Torts held out hope in his own way. He absolutely ripped into his team for their sluggish first 20 minutes, and what he had to say is just absolute coaching gold. It's everything you expect from John Tortorella behind closed doors.
I asked you to fucking defend. I've seen you fucking defend before, and you're gonna do it here. If that's how we're gonna battle, we're not gonna have a chance to win!
Jesus Christ, how much time do we have to talk about it? If that's all the juice we have, as far as competing against that team, we will get killed tonight! And we have two periods here, so I've asked you all to buy into how we have to play. If that's it, we're fucking done. Pack it up. And I know that this fucking team isn't that way. I've seen ya!
We have 40 fuckin' minutes to go. Take each shift at a time and chip away. They're not that good in their end zone. And we know our club. That's the biggest fuckin' positive of our team is how hard we play. So fucking screw it on straight here. Screw it on and let's be ready to go each shift at a time.
Okay? So, stiffen up here! Everybody. Help one another, but I tell ya, if you're not going to be stiff, you're not going to play! I'm warning ya all. This is a contest here that's a good test for us for us where we are right now.
JOHN TORTORELLA, THE INCREDIBLE MAN
There's not much we can say about the Rangers coach and his relationship with Liam, a 10-year-old fan with cerebral palsy. We'll just let the video, via Puck Daddy, do all the talking.
LIAM: This is me and coach. It says, 'To my best buddy, we'll always be friends.'
[cut to Tortorella]
TORTS: He wants to know about the hockey club, and I try to give him as much information as I can. But a lot of it is just checking in on one another. To look at him, and he hasn't been given a fair shake right from the get-go, but to see his attitude, how he handles himself. I'm glad he's part of my life and I'm glad I'm part of his.
[cut back to Liam]
LIAM: It really means the world to me actually. It really does. How he watches after me and how he protects my back.
SOMETHING'S OFF IN MONTREAL
There's long been a reputation that the raucous crowd at Bell Centre in Montreal sways officials in favor of the home team, the Canadiens. Fans believe this more than anything, and really, you kind of always think that it's just one of those things those on the outside believe. The players and the coaches and people really in the game? Nah, they don't believe it. It's silly. Referees don't let stuff like that sway them.
But ah, wait. Maybe they do. Let us enter into evidence Exhibit A, Peter Laviolette's tirade at the officials during the Flyers' game against the Habs a week ago.
On the bench...
That's a disgrace. That's a disgrace! What a joke. That's typical. Montreal, typical.
On the way to the locker room...
How come you didn't call that penalty right there? You didn't even see it.
[ref says something off mic]
Then put your arm up and call it. Enough is enough!
And after watching the video review...
How the fuck is that not a penalty? What a disgrace. Typical Montreal.
Maybe it's true, maybe it's not. But at least we're not the only ones that think something is fishy in Montreal with the officiating sometimes.
SPEAKING OF BAD REFS...
Perhaps the most eye-opening of moments in the show came towards the end, as the Flyers were in the midst of getting rolled by the Boston Bruins. In the first period, as the Boston lead began to grow, Max Talbot was warned by referee Dan O'Halloran to stop.
Talbot didn't stop. He went after a guy in the corner, a clean hit for sure, and the official whistled him down for roughing because "he did three things on that shift." The ref, you see, was just trying to keep the game under his control. Talbot complained on his way to the box, and as he stepped out during a TV timeout, he skated over to the official for a few words.
O'HALLORAN: That's a bad call, Max. It's a bad call, but sometimes you accumulate things.
TALBOT: But you can't call me for what I didn't do.
O'HALLORAN: I agree with you. That was a bad call.
This is the type of candor we never, ever get to see, especially from the officials who never have to speak with the media about their jobs. I wonder how often conversations like this happen?
ILYA BRYZGALOV WATCH
For the second week in a row, the Flyers goaltender induced tears of hilarity on more than one occasion. First, when talking about his performance on last week's edition of 24/7, and after answering to his teammates calling him Universe, which is obviously quickly going to become his new nickname, he screwed around with Jaromir Jagr at breakfast.
After he settled in to eat, things got weird with rookie Harry Zolnierczyk.
UNIVERSE: You have imagination, right? You know they breed Husky?
HARRY Z: The Husky? The dog?
UNIVERSE: Yeah. Siberian Husky.
HARRY Z: That's what you have?
UNIVERSE: Yeah. She's all white, beautiful blue eyes. That's basically blondie girl with the blue eyes. Your dream, man.
HARRY Z: So you're comparing women to your Huskies?
UNIVERSE: My Husky, basically, she's a hot girl, man.
HARRY Z: Aaaaamazing. Aaaaaaamazing.
Sergei Bobrovsky, sitting at the table with little-to-no knowledge of the English language, doesn't have a damn clue what he's missing.
That's not all we saw from Bryz this week, however. We've found the actor who plays Peggy in the Discover card commercials. He also tends goal for the Flyers in his down time.
Absolutely robbed, van Riemsdyk. Absolutely robbed. And also, go to the back, kid. It seems like Bryz is having fun on the ice, but things quickly turn a bit stern. Or something. He sometimes hates his job. We'll obviously let him explain for us.
Yeah, I love it. I love it. Sometimes hate it. Depends. Like a few weeks ago, like they hit me, like they broke my chest protector and during the practice. And guys continue start hitting me in same spot, you know, like why's, oh my God, why so like, painful, you know? Man, I don't wanna be goalie no more.
Can I sit in the office and accept calls like 'Yeah, like 1-800... let me transfer to you different department.'
And on his defensemen being weirder than he is, which might just be the most impossible of things...
Okay, they fire the puck from the blueline, and Chief usually yelling 'Block the shot!' at the defensemen. They doesn't have a goalie gear, but they gotta block the shot. Who is more crazy: Me, or defenseman? Who is more weird? *smirk*
Really, the best part of this week's Bryzgalov Watch didn't even really involve something he said. As the Flyers won the game and surrounded backup goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, who picked up the start last Thursday night in Montreal, you can hear one player scream at Bryzgalov on the ice: "UNIVERSE!"
Other moments of note:
-- 24/7 kid battle: Dan Girardi's son Landon, or Craig Adams' son Rhys?
-- HBO cameras followed Rangers' equipment managers through their first day in St. Louis, as they scrambled to get equipment from the plane to the arena before the players. Typically this isn't a problem, as there's usually not a practice immediately after the plane lands at the airport, but Tortorella shook things up this time, forcing the equipment guys into pressure mode.
-- Flyers rookies Zac Rinaldo and Zolnierczyk on playing with Jaromir Jagr:
HARRY Z: You grew up watching that guy. Highlight reels of him and Mario, and now you get a chance to be on the ice with him everyday after practice, so I mean, whenever--
RINALDO: He was on Sega Genesis. Sega Genesis, I used to play that game religiously. I never used to be Jags because I didn't like that type of player, but I used to play against Jags on Sega. I was Eric Lindros.
-- Torts, breaking down film on Steve Eminger: "That's why fuckin' Emmy signed here, 'cause of how hard he plays. He's ugly as Hell most of the time as far as when he plays, but because of that. That's why he's here."
-- Sean Couturier's injury in the first period of Flyers vs. Bruins was nasty. You don't expect to see blood on the head of a player when they get struck with a puck in the helmet. After all, they're wearing a helmet. But that was the impact of the shot from Kimmo Timonen that struck Couturier in the head. Clearly dazed as he walked off the ice, those images captured by HBO gave a unique glimpse into the injury and just how bad it was. You don't get this stuff otherwise.
-- Henrik Lundqvist plays guitar with John McEnroe. I mean, really now.
Next week on 24/7: Giroux scores those four points as the Flyers find their way back into the win column, the Rangers square off against hated rivals in the Devils, Islanders and oh, hey, the Flyers, and the rink is installed at Citizens Bank Park for the Winter Classic. Wait, you mean this is all about an outdoor hockey game?